Interviewer: Steve Noll
Interviewee: Dave Bowman
Date: March 23, 2003
N: This is an Oral History interview conducted by Steve Noll and Dave Tagadare for
the Cross-Florida Barge Canal Project, at the Office of Greenways and Trails. It
is March 23, 2003, and we are conducting this interview in Orange Springs in the
home of Dave Bowman. Good afternoon, Dave.
B: Good afternoon.
N: Before we start on the official part of the project, why don't you tell us some
information about you: your birthday, where you were born, where you went to
school, and how you came upon the Barge Canal.
B: I was born on July 11, 1942, in Savage, Maryland. [I] went to school, I don't think
I went to the same school more than a year and a half in a row, but grew up all
around Maryland. Our family moved to Florida when I was fifteen, in 1956. [We
moved to Florida] in the Orlando area. [I] went to several schools, lived in several
places down there, [and] I graduated from Lake View High School in Winter
Garden in 1960. [I] immediately joined the Marine Corps and was gone for three
years. Spent the [duration of the] Cuban Missel Crisis in trenches down in
Guantanamo Bay, that was probably the military highlight of the career. [I] came
out and went to junior college at Orlando Junior College, for the first two years,
and then transferred to the University of Florida in 1966. [I] graduated in 1968, in
December, with a degree in Forestry and Wildlife Ecology. [I] had heard from
several professors about the Cross-Florida Barge Canal Project, which was
already underway. In fact, [I] did not like living in town, and so I found a place to
live out near Orange Springs while I was still going to the University of Florida. [I]
got to view the Cross-Florida Barge Canal Project while I was a student. I think
1966 was the first time I actually went down to the old fairy landing in Orange
Springs. That, and hearing my professors, and also having a basic interest in
conservation, especially. [I] became very interested in what was going on down
there because I had seen the forest be flattened by this huge machine and
started finding out about what the project was all about. When I graduated in
1968, and I was still going to school at night working on a masters degree, I
decided to try to find a job with the Core of Engineers, and find out what all was
going on and how the "enemy" worked.
N: Enemy? Why are they the "enemy," and who are they the enemy of, at that
B: Well, they're the enemy of the fast-growing environmental movement. This is
just before the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969. I was
still a student and there were a number of professors I had, including some
friends in the Zoology Department. Archie Carr, who wasn't that vocal about it
one way or the other; but Professor John Kaufman; of course Professor David
Anthony in Biochemistry; Professor Nordly in the Ecology Department; and of
course Howard Odum in the Wetlands Center, later would be in the Wetlands
Center, he was professor of Engineering at the time, Environmental Engineering,
especially. I had courses with all those professors and more who were either
members or who strongly supported the Florida Defenders of the Environment
[FDE]. [I], not knowing the other side at the time, I kind of sculpted them out from
what I was hearing and what I was seeing, for where I was living, that they were
the enemy of the environment.
N: "They" meaning the Corps?
B: Yes, the Corps of Engineers and all of the canal authority, people who were
backing this project. Now, you've got to remember I was kind of a young guy, but
I was a little older than most college students because I had been in the service
for three years. So, I didn't have that unquestioning loyalty to the environmental
movement, so I wanted to see what the other side had to say. The best thing I
could do, after having worked...I worked my way through college, [and] had a full-
time job most of the time. I had worked for the Gaming Commission, the US
Forrest Service for a couple of summers out west, landscaping companies, Soils
Department at the University of Florida, [and the] Forestry Department at the
University of Florida. So, I had seen, you know, I had quite a bit of work
experience and I wanted to work for the other side, and so I got a job with the
Core of Engineers in April of 1969.
N: What was that job?
B: It was a deck-hand on tugboat.
N: So, this didn't involve environmental policy or anything else?
B: No, it's just a job so I could continue going to graduate school at night, at the
time. Actually, I had planned to do a short career of about five years, just
traveling around the US, working for different for different parks to get to know
the country and the way different agencies formed their policy, kind of. I was
interested in the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the
Forest Service, and a number of other agencies. Also, [I was interested in] the
Corps of Engineers, because they have a park management program also.
Anybody that dealt in recreation and management and natural resources I was
interested in, but I was interested in getting the ground picture from traveling
around. This project here became so interesting, of course I came right on board
just before NEPO was being passed, and there was a lot of activity [and]
protesting of this project here. It seemed like I could learn more here. Plus, I
had two children in fast succession, 1969 and 1970, and that tends to tie you
down and rearrange your priorities about whether you should go off traveling
around. So, it became very interesting and I just kept staying here. A job came
open for park ranger in July of that same year, 1969. So, I was only a deck-hand
on a tugboat, working on the Oklawaha River Clearing and different projects. [I
was] putting up channel markers where they were destroying the river so you
could see where the river channel was. I only did that for about three months
and then I became a park ranger.
N: Working on the Oklawaha for the Corps?
B: While working on the Cross-Florida Barge Canal, but mainly on Robin Reservoir.
N: What did your job entail, what did you have to do, and how did that job change
your perception of either the Corps or the environmental movement?
B: My perception of the Corps was changed pretty much immediately. I found that
they were like most organizations that I had experienced before, including the
military and different agencies and companies that I had worked for, and also
different companies and agencies that I've dealt with since. They were like any
other agency. Most of the people are very competent, intelligent, and I enjoyed
working around. There were some, just like any agencies, that had their own
axes to grind, so to speak, and weren't that objective. Anyway, I enjoyed working
for the Corps of Engineers, especially after being motivated to work for them the
way I was. I guess you could say I learned a lot from them, about organizations,
and about the fact that they have a core of people at all levels that are very
intelligent, dedicated, and fairly objective. They like to see the projects they
initiate completed of course, but I think most of them realize that they're in public
service and they have to change with the changing priorities of what the people
want. In fact, they are very direct when they do change because the
Commander and Chief of the Corps of Engineers is the President [of the United
States]. So if the President becomes convinced that something needs to
change, it's just the order, and the Corps of Engineers immediately does what he
wants them to. It's not like USDA or US Department of Interior that might
question and argue about it. The Corps of Engineers, the Chief of Engineers is
an army officer, and so he says yes sir.
N: Right, it's that military mind-set.
N: Did you have any problem [with] being perceived by the Corps as a
"environmentalist?" How did they perceive you as a park ranger? Did they see
this position as simply a sop to the environmentalists, or did you have free-reign
to do what you felt you needed to do?
B: No, I had free-reign as far as freedom to speak, of course within limits. They
wanted certain things to go through the chain of command up to Jacksonville, to
come out of their public affairs office just like an organization, but I had full
freedom to speak with any organization, for sure. Several times I spoke my mind
in the public and was kind of humored more than chastised for doing that, I would
N: Where did you come down on what was going on on the Oklawaha during that
time period? What are your perceptions of what was going on there during that
time, and the building of the canal?
B: My perceptions were that the cost of the project, especially environmental cost,
did not justify building the Cross-Florida Barge Canal Project. I kept those
thoughts in the background while we were having all of the public meetings and
public input. [I] figured that if I was to be part of that project, that I should let the
objections come from the public and maybe not so much from me, because
things like that are more effective. I guess I react as a trooper when it comes to
doing your job even though you might not personally agree with it. Because
which every way it went, whether the Barge Canal Project went through, I would
be a more effective employee and maybe get my view, as far as conservation
went, [across] more effectively if I had a good objective record of being an
employee, you know, under the fire of whether the project is going to be built or
not. At the same time I was, I think, very open to anybody that had questions
about the figures and the studies and the economic justification. Like I said, I
had full range to tell people my opinion based on the facts during that period
when the Barge Canal was being fought one way or the other, and that's what I
did. When representatives or anyone would come around asking questions, I'd
give them the facts. The fact really, I didn't think, supported building the projects
because the economics were fairly marginal without getting into the
environmental disruption that the Barge Canal Project was going to cause. I
think I kind of fought my battle against the Barge Canal Project straight through
the middle, as I see it. I probably lost a few, so called, friends in the
environmental community in Gainesville because of it. That's fine, I don't miss
N: Yes, that's what I was going to ask. What was the reaction of your fellow
students and your professors to your going over the dark side, as it were?
B: Most of them I think became better friends, at least professionally, maybe not
personal, because of that. Most of them respected my opinion. Like Dr. Howard
Odum, he and I were always very cordial and would talk at length when we got
together about what was going on in the field versus...things like water quality,
and what the remnants of the project could be used for in the future. Also, his
brother, Eugene Odum from the University of Georgia, I would say became
closer friends [with me] amongst several others. Even those who were speaking
out strongly, and maybe using, I would say, facts to their advantage, and some of
the not so factual stuff to their advantage, we're still friends.
N: Yes. What was the Oklawaha like in 1970, as an ecosystem, as a river?
B: The section that was effected by Robin Reservoir, which is the fifteen miles
between Robin Damn and Eureka in 1970, was fast being changed over to a
more open canopy. A lot of the trees had already died, the ones that couldn't
take that much flooding for that long a period of time. In fact, I remember 1970
as being the year that within the main reservoir area all that was left with any
greenery were the Cabbage Palms, Cabbage Palms being different from other
trees in that they're monocots. They're like a corn plant, they regrow all their
growing tissue every year. They die off the root major stems, the growing parts,
and also the growing tissue, or I should say the living tissue at the top also
regrows. So, the whole root system regrows every year. So, I think that's why
they lasted longer.
N: Did you see the river as a pristine environment that was being just spoiled, or
was it an environment that had already been changed significantly by man? That
ties into the questions about FDE and their concerns about the river as this
remnant of natural Florida.
B: Yes, it was the remnant of natural Florida. To more of a degree, it had been
developed. There's less river channel frontage owned by the public in that
section of Robin Reservoir than there is in the upper section of the Oklawaha.
N: The other section being?
B: [The other section is] from Eureka to Silver River. From Eureka to Silver River
it's pretty much natural, the way it was, except for the original loggins and a
couple of landings, but from Eureka down to Robin Damn, there were a lot of
hunting camps and few canals built to side with small lots. A lot of people that
had these hunting camps had direct sewer pipes into the river. Stuff like that, but
that's really minimal. It was a fairly natural stretch of river and it was completely
disrupted by flooding, of course.
N: When was the damn completed?
B: 1968 was when it was first flooded.
N: Then, the reservoir then reached the level where it is today?
B: [It reached that level] in 1969. It was flooded to elevation sixteen in 1968, and
then reduced to fourteen because it was easier to do some of the snag removal,
the last minute snag removal, and then it was brought up to full-pool in 1969, up
N: Where is it today?
B: Today, it's at twenty or something just less than that, maybe nineteen point
N: As the park ranger for this project, what were some of your duties?
B: First of all, most of course, is to take care of any public use on the project. Of
course there was a lot of public use [such as] fishing at the damn. We had four
boat ramps that had been completed, and there was a lot of public use there. In
1969, they went ahead...I say they, the powers up in Jacksonville wanted at least
a temporary camp ground because they were getting so many calls for overnight
camping our there.
N: That's the powers of the Corps?
B: Yes. They had a master plan already on the books by 1969. From that, we hired
a few summer students and few temporary laborers, and we went about
constructing a road and to lay out a Robin Reservoir. I was in charge of that, the
layout of Robin Campground. That was a lot of fun because it brought in a lot of
my experience with surveying and some experience and training with Recreation
Management, which was the layout of campgrounds and stuff like that. Then, we
went over to Ken Wood and Orange Springs and created some day-use areas,
some picnic areas, laid that out. So, I was involved from the ground up, putting
facilities on the ground, on the land we already and come to find out later, on
some land that we didn't own.
N: Who owned that land?
B: The Miller family still owned quite a bit of the Ken Wood area, but of course the
Canal Authority was in place to procure all of those lands, and I guess the court
thought that it was just a matter of a few months before they would get them. In
fact, it was a matter of about thirty years before they got it.
N: Can you speak then, of the different roles of the Canal Authority versus the
Corps in the building and construction of the canal?
B: Yes. Generally the Corps of Engineers, when they undertake a civil-works
project, as far as I know, always has in place or always like to have in place a
local sponsor that does the local work [such as] disseminating information [and]
procuring lands that are needed for the project. In Florida, that organization was
the Canal Authority of the State of Florida. They were the big backers, so to
speak, and the big pushers of the project to get the Florida government to put up
their share of funding, and especially backing.
N: Does that work well, with a state agency working together with a federal agency,
or are there problems with that?
B: Well there's problems of course, but generally I think it's the only way to go if
you're going to build, I guess you'd say, a project of national importance to the
whole navigation system and the country. That was why the project was
undertaken, but it's always good to have the local state that's it's involved in right
up front with you.
N: The economic benefits that were supposedly to accrue from the canal's
completion and use, can you speak to what those were supposed to be? You've
already expressed that you didn't think that they were viable, but can you tell me
what the rational was for building this canal?
B: Yes, as I understood and have read since about it, the Corps had done several
economic analysis before the present-day Barge Canal was started in 1964.
[They] just kind of kept it on the shelf because it was marginal. Then, sometime
in the early 1960s, recreation benefits were either legally or at least pushed as
part of the overall determining formula for whether a project should be built of
not. When they included the recreation benefits, I understood that the benefits
went above one point zero to one. I don't know what that was, but it was still
marginal in my mind. It is like one point one-three or one point two at the most,
as I recall. That just wasn't enough in mind because the environmental impacts
hadn't been put in there at all, just recreation. When you put recreation on there
they always prefer like a lake project that a lot of people can get benefit out of
with skiing and things like that I don't really care about, over what people can use
a river for. I mean, that was just inherit in that decision to put that in there, and it
wasn't fair in my mind.
N: The recreational benefits would be economically important to it?
N: Tell me about FDE. How did they get involved and what's the relationship of
FDE and Marjorie Carr to this project?
B: FDE was already involved when I was a student at UF. Of course, [I] was taking
a lot of biology, botany and zoology courses, even statistics and chemistry. [I]
spent quite a bit of time in the classes of professors who were members of FDE.
Inevitably they would use that project as an example of things that were going on
that needed to be changed. I didn't need much coaching to realize, because I
agreed that those things needed to be changed. FDE is an organization. The
first time I heard about them was, I believe, before I went to work for the Corps,
probably 1968. Just before I went looking for a job with them I had already heard
about the Florida Defenders of the Environment and what they were doing. [I]
knew several students who were members and who I would later have contact
with on the project, like George Gerner who headed up the task force to come
down and restudy from Washington, to study the environmental impacts in the
N: He was a student at UF with you, then?
N: He was also in the Forestry Department?
B: Yes, but I had always, and right on through, had respect [for FDE] and was in
fact a member for most of the time. [I] still am a member of the FDE so I can
keep up with what they're doing. They also do a lot of good work on other
projects in the state of Florida, including the Suwannee River and the
Apalachicola River, that I like to keep track of. I'm not a real active member. I
think my job is more effective if I stay away from both extremes of the battle over
what used to be the Barge Canal but is not centered on Robin Reservoir. I just
try to feed the information to both sides as they request it. I'm a member of both
sides, Save Robin and also FDE, just so I can stay in tune with what they're both
N: FDE has been classified as much an organ of Marjorie Carr as a broad-based
environmental coalition. How do you see Marjorie Carr and her role in this?
B: Well, I think she was one of their prime motivators, of course. I have heard from
other members, especially later on in the 1980s [and] through the 1990s that
maybe she was a little too locked in to restoring Robin, [and] maybe expended a
lot of energy and the resources of that organization doing that, but that's up to
them. I've heard those stories, but that's the only thing that I've heard that would
take away from effort.
N: Did you know her personally?
B: Oh yes, I talked to her, but we weren't that close, of course, because she
disagreed with some of the stuff, or maybe most of the stuff, that I was saying or
putting in the newspaper as a kind of defense to keep a lot of their figures
honest. Like any organization, I think a lot of their figures got into newsprint and
in different reports that were a little exaggerated to say the least. Some of them
[were] just non-factual either from misunderstandings on their part about budget
items and stuff, or whatever, and I would try to keep those straight by coming up
with the figures and getting those in the newspaper or wherever to correct it.
That was the only rub that I think that we had. You have to do what you think is
right and she did what she thought was right.
N: Would you say that FDE and Marjorie were the instrumental factor in the ending
of the canal?
B: I would say so.
N: The lawsuit, the Environmental Defense Fund, and all these things that are
occurring in 1970, these are crucial steps in Nixon's eventual closing [and]
stopping of the canal?
N: What was the atmosphere of the Corps when first the court ruling comes down,
and then Nixon's promulgation that work needs to be stopped? Was it shock?
Was it anger? Was it resignation? Were you still working for the Corps at that
B: Yes, that was 1971. Yeah, I had been working for them for two years. I was one
of only, maybe, two people. I think they had someone that had a college degree
in agronomy and maybe somebody in civil culture in a Jacksonville district.
We're talking about six to eight hundred employees. So actually, I was the only
field biologist, [really] anybody with any training in biology that they had [was].
So, I was on the front line as far as showing people around that were doing all
these restudies and reevaluations from different tasks forces out of Washington
and Atlanta who would come down to gather facts for an upcoming section of the
trial over the whole Barge Canal Project. So, I was right in the middle of it. I was
possibly the only person in the Corps of Engineers in 1969, 1970, 1971 even, in
the Jacksonville District of the Corps of Engineers, who could speak directly with
some field knowledge and also some background in ecology and biology. I think
maybe that's something that really rubbed a lot of people on the other side the
wrong way, but that's okay. They were instrumental in getting a lot of public
attention that should have been on projects like the Barge Canal Project. When
there weren't any laws to equally consider natural resources [they drew
attention], and I think that was a great thing. I think that my working directly with
the Corps of Engineers and kind of knowing what they were all about, and also
having a knowledge and some education in ecology and natural resource
management, I think that hopefully would help to prevent the pendulum from
swinging too far to the other way. I think either way the pendulum swings too far,
you don't get good, constructive change; it's more emotion than change. So, I
kind of look back with some satisfaction on my role in that.
N: What did other people who were on the project think about Nixon and his
B: Oh, there was everything from gnashing of teeth to "I told you so." And [some
said that] this is going to be better in the long run when they find out what the
facts are and we go ahead with the project anyway, because we can do it
environmentally sound, the way we should do it. I mean, there were a lot of
good, what I thought were professional reactions to it, and then there were also
some emotional ones. It was pretty interesting.
N: I can imagine. Did people assume that there would be a backlash and that the
project would go forth again, or did they feel that this was kind of a sop to the
environmental movement and this was part of this broader environmental mind
set that was going on?
B: There was some of each. I was of course working pretty closely with quite a few
people [like] the project engineer in Jacksonville District, the Chief of Engineering
section, and a very fast-growing environmental section that they were trying to
bolster and get some expertise in so they could reevaluate the project the way
they were supposed to because of the law in 1969. So, there were a lot of
changes going on in the Corps of Engineers. We got quite a few good people in
the environmental-resources section, I think they call them. That was
nonexisting before 1969. Did I wander away from the question?
N: No, that's good. Wandering away is good. Okay Dave, can you please tell me
about Marjorie Carr and the Corps? What did the Corps people think about her
personally, or did that matter?
B: I would say almost to the person, they were civil. Some of them didn't like her. I
never heard any curse words. I don't know if they knew I was a member at FDE
or not; I don't really care. They were upset about it, and they wondered who this
woman was, at first. Those are the earliest things that I can remember. At least
the management people [were upset], the colonel and heads of division who
were really impacted by this and had to switch gears from building a project to
defending it, and then coming up with a complete restudy. I can only remember
what I would say are people that are gentleman. I say that because most of
them were men. In fact, all of them I can remember early on that were working
on the project were men, with a few women engineers. No, I think that comes
with being part of the army, they were able to switch gears most of them, and
there wasn't a whole lot of gnashing of teeth in the Canal Authority as I
remember it. I think Tom Adams for one kind of sums it up when he kind of
lashed out publicly in a public meeting.
N: Tom Adams being?
B: Lieutenant governor at the time. In fact, I remember a couple of the Corps
people, the chief of engineering and the project manager for one, who really
didn't have a very good opinion of that kind of tactic. It's kind of corny, but I think
people that are in the defense department have a little more direct relationship
with that thing about, you know, it's American to be able to speak your mind in
dissent and that kind of thing. That's where one of my views of the Corps of
Engineers as an organization of people changed right there. I kind of have
respect for their attitude about the opposition and the fact that our job is to
change with changing priorities. I think I found more of that with the Corps of
Engineers than I did with the State of Florida and then later on with some of the
agencies that testified against the project. I think they used a little more
opportunistic, maybe not so factual, of arguments than the Corps. The Corps I
had more respect for for how they handled themselves during that time period. I
think they were a little more professional than some of the other agencies that
were on the other side.
N: Was FDE as professional in their dealing or were they resorting to sentimentality
and personal attacks, or were they generally focused on the scientific basis for
B: I think given the fact that they were the underdog and they were coming from the
side that had no legal protection from 1969. So, they were very incensed, as I
was, before 1969 that there was no protection. [There was] no mechanism to
evaluate these protects. I think there was a little more emotionalism on their part,
you know I give them that, but by and large, the environmental organizations
were pretty professional and were looking for the truth also. There were maybe
just a few more individuals that were willing to just put their emotionalism right
out front of the facts.
N: And UF professors were instrumental in organizing FDE and in putting that
scientific basis for that?
N: Can switch gears just for a minute and talk about the canal and its construction?
There's great stories about how this pool was constructed, how this forest was
leveled. Can you talk about that for a while?
B: Yes, about a third of the reservoir was...the reservoir being a wetland forest or at
least a flat-woods forest that was moist most of the time. A good third of that was
crushed with the idea of crushing the trees far enough into the sediment so they
wouldn't float, and thereby saving a million dollars or more on the clearing
N: Was that under the auspices of the Corps or the state?
B: No, that was Corps. In fact they, I believe, gave out a Value Engineering Award
to whoever worked on that project to save the federal government money by
crushing the trees to the bottom instead of clear-cutting them, taking them out
and burning them.
N: How were those trees crushed?
B: They used a one-of-a-kind tree crusher that was constructed just for this project.
I'm told [it had] forty-nine Caterpillar engines, one in each corner of it. It was
thirty-two feet high. I really don't know how long, but it looked like a big tank and
it had pumps were you could pump water into it to make it heavier if it met
resistance with crushing the tress. Also, you could pump water out of it so it
would float if it had to go over a deep area. My first sight of it was, I think, in
1967 when I went down to Orange Springs Fairy Landing and the forest that
used to be there was just about totally gone. I asked the fairy operator, Johnny
Alton, I said what the hell is going on down here. He told me it was part of the
Federal Barge Canal Project. That's kind of where I put two and two together
about what was going on and what I had heard what was going on about the
project. It wasn't that I didn't know anything about the project, I just didn't realize
that it was coming that fast. [I] didn't immediately link what was going on at that
landing with all the trees crushed into the ground, but I found out pretty quick.
N: Now the crusher, it had crushed them just simply with the giant treads? Was
there something on the front of it?
B: Well, it had like a big bumper on the front of it. [It was like] a huge pipe, I don't
know how big it was, at least a foot in diameter I would suppose. [It was like] a
big breaker bar on the front. It would hit the trees at about thirty feet high, which
would give it a pretty good leverage action on the tree to push them down. Then,
it would walk over them with the tracks.
N: Was this successful? Did it push them into the sediment permanently?
B: No, that's, I think, where the Corps really lacked anybody that had done any
evaluation of the whole, especially the soils of the project. As you know, there
are a lot of high islands in the Oklawaha River swamp, they grow oak trees and
things like that. You're not going to really press anything too far into the sand
that way. Not only that, a lot of the organic soils aren't that deep, so you're
pushing them into soft mud, and when these trees and all these gases starts to
deteriorate, it's going to tend to knock them out of the mud. From what I heard,
they were also not planning on a fairly dry season, they were planning on more
wet soils. I think that's just an excuse as to why a lot of them didn't stay down,
why a lot of them popped to the surface. I think they would have popped
anyway, no matter how wet of a period we'd have had or how deep the mud had
been. That's about all you can say about that. It really didn't work. I mean, it
worked in the sense that it got rid of the forest, but it didn't work in two ways:
Number one, they had to spend quite a bit of money, going out there with a
barge, a crane, and a tug boat picking them up and putting them on burning
islands. Number two, I think the pictures that FDE took and put in newspaper all
around the state probably did more to mobilize people in to saying what the hell
are we don't to this project when they saw all those floating stumps.
N: Or when they saw that giant machine?
B: Right, exactly.
N: What happened to the thing?
B: I haven't been able to find out. I've heard three different [stories], almost
legends, now. One [story said] that it went to South America and started doing
the same thing down there. I don't think that's true, but...
N: But it's a great story.
B: It's a great story. One [story said] that they moved it to the intracoastal
waterway, over there somewhere near Flagler Beach, and it's rusting away
somewhere on a spoil island. Another [story said] that it was disassembled and
sold either in parts or they put it together again in South America. [laughing]
N: Did you ever meet the man that is responsible for building this thing and
B: [I] met Jack Perko and talked to him a number of times, who lived a Paynes
Landing. He was a subcontractor for Gray, Gibson, and Greg, they all fit, you
know, that built and managed the crusher. I could be wrong about the actual
construction company under that overall contract with Gray, Gibson, and Greg,
but I know Jack Perko worked as a field supervisor for them and actually
supervised the people who ran the tree crusher on a day to day basis. So yeah,
I've talked to people that were involved with it and I talked to some fellow who
actually ran the crusher, but I don't think he's alive now and I don't even
remember his name anymore.
N: What do you think about doing that? Just a job?
B: Yeah, pretty much a job running a huge bulldozer.
N: No different than anything else, just bigger?
N: Do you think that that machine and the way it was utilized so wonderfully by FDE,
is that crucial in changing the public's perception?
B: Yes. I think that's what usually happens. In my experience with these types of
projects, it's hard to get a ground swell of interest in it, and then something just
comes along that's a real pivotal point, and I think that was it. That's the way I
look at it. One of the charter member of FDE owned a spring. [He owned] a
small cabin and a small spring. I think it's Cause Springs, just above Paynes
N: That's on the Oklawaha?
B: Yeah. I think he's either related or later sold his place to the Bealing family who
are also members of FDE. Anyway, he told me a story of the day he saw the
crusher coming down around the periphery of the reservoir. One of the jobs of
the crusher was to crush the perimeter at elevation twenty to twenty-one for
"mosquito control". [The crusher was supposed to do this] to get rid of the nasty
swamp forest and have a perimeter where you could spray for mosquitos around
the periphery. He said he became a member as soon as he could when that
crusher came through there and ran right across his spring and crushed the trees
down into his spring of his like idealistic, Florida swimming hole. Who could not
understand this guy becoming a member of FDE after he sees that?
N: Sure, but they did this on his private property?
B: Well, I'm not sure. It's hard to say without going back on the records and seeing
the date at which the Canal Authority paid and took position of different things,
because there's so many different legal instruments, easements and just a whole
rainbow of different interests that the Canal Authority had. So, possibly it was his
property at the time and possibly it was the governments, but that really doesn't
matter when you're interested in a piece of natural Florida and you see it get
[End side Al]
N: Okay, we're kind of back now. Let's talk about what happens to the Barge Canal
Project, the Corps, and you after Nixon halts the project in 1971. The project is
on hold, what's your job, and what's the Corps job, and what's FDE's job?
B: 1971, after the halt, I would say two to three days a week I was either showing
somebody around from some kind of task force gathering information, [such as]
the media. The other two days, I was trying to do some resource management
and trying get our boundaries surveyed so that we could protect the land and the
water, and also take care of the recreation traffic that was going on.
N: Significant recreation traffic at that point?
B: Yeah, about 250 to 400,000 people a year with very minimal facilities. We were
not allowed to construct anything. We had to make due with...
N: Was that because of Nixon's order?
B: Right. Yeah, we couldn't spend money improving any of the facilities. So, we're
stuck with pretty heavy recreation traffic, especially on weekends. The only
facilities we could put out there are port-o-lets that you would find at a
construction site. Plus, very few other facilities like tables, information boards,
and signs about how to get here and our regulations and everything, so it's
definitely a full-time job. I'm working quite a bit even on the weekends, because
that's when a lot of people want to come out and see it that are involved with the
media and everything.
N: How big a deal was it regarding the media? Did they see it as a major issue
affecting the state, or was it just considered a small, political problem?
B: No, I think they saw it as affecting the state and possibly partly the southeast as
far as navigation went. Yeah, the main focus was stopping the Barge Canal,
then. Also, on the other side you've got the government going through the
motions of interpreting the National Environmental Policy Act and trying to form
an organized approach to restudy the whole project, which is several million
dollars in the works between 1971 and 1977 when they completed the study.
N: That's that twenty-volume tome?
B: Yeah, that's that three and a half foot thick, blue study.
N: Were you involved in the restudy?
B: Oh, yes [laughing].
N: What were the results of the restudy?
B: The results were that, [to] just about say it in one sentence, the chief of engineers
found that the project could not be recommended at this time because of the
marginal economic value and the probable, large ecological impacts of the
project. I remember that as being his statement. I think it's in the executive
summary to that effect. So, that was the overall.
N: That is that the restudy is finally finished?
B: In 1977 [it was finished].
N: 1977. By that time, is FDE pushing for the damns removal, from Robins
B: Yes, they were always pushing for Robins removal. In fact, when I first came to
work for the Corps, I think I was there three months, just before I became a
ranger, and I was already involved with meetings at UF with wildlife professor
and people from the Jacksonville district about getting the water off those trees in
Robin. I would say that was a 100 percent genuine interest in trying to save that
river-swamp forest, because even though we don't have a whole lot of data on
river-swamp forests...I mean, there is some expertise in wetlands and stuff, and
they know that a lot of those trees are not going to take a year or two of high
water, and they didn't. So yeah, I'm involved in that as early as 1969. That didn't
abate whenever the studies were going on about either going ahead or de-
authorizing the Barge Canal. Throughout that time there's continual clamor to
drain Robin Reservoir and get the water off of it.
N: In order for Robin to be drained, the Canal Project would have to be de-
B: Yeah, Robin became a central issue several times during even the earlier
hearings in 1971 [and] 1972. I took out a number of study teams from US Forest
Service and everyone to gather information on how many live trees were left in
this area and how many they first saw as dying before the year was out. There
were several motions made to drain the reservoir, or at least draw it down
significantly while the Barge Canal Trial was going on.
N: What's the states role or position during this hiatus period?
B: The state is the main proponent for keeping the reservoir and going ahead with
the Barge Canal, because early on the Corps of Engineers was made a party
to...well, when President Nixon says he wants to Barge Canal stopped and they
get a judgement to temporarily halt it, the Corps of Engineers is a party to that.
They automatically switch and defend halting the Barge Canal Project until it's
studied. So then, you have the Canal Authority and their group of witnesses that
are the main push for continuing that are the main push for continuing work on
the Barge Canal. So actually, you have the Corps of Engineers on the same side
as the other federal agencies, as well as FDE, to temporarily halt and justify
halting it until it can be studied right. Then, you have the Canal Authority
subpoenaing me as a hostel witness against my agency I'm working for.
N: So you were testifying in the trial?
N: Where was that held?
N: During what years [did it go on, and] how long did the trial last?
B: I'm talking about pretrial hearings and depositions and everything, probably 1971
N: What's the final judgement in the trial?
B: [The final judgement was] that it would be halted and no more construction can
take place except for completing a couple of highway bridges that were
dangerous, like Highway 40. [No more construction] until the federal government
came up with an environment-impact analysis and a complete update of the
economics and engineering and everything else on the Barge Canal.
N: That's the restudy?
B: That's the restudy.
N: What's the state's interest in continuing this? [Is it] strictly economic?
B: [I] don't know. I wasn't that close to the Canal Authority. Let me see, I think
Giles Evans was the Canal Authority Manager, who I've always found to be a
class-act. Even though he'd fire off letters with some things I didn't agree in
them, he was just doing his job, defending and trying to get the Barge Canal
[Project] back on track. He and I always got along personally when he would
come to me for information and stuff like that, but I don't know much about his
B: or emotional side.
N: Did you have any contact with Bert Dosh?
N: No. [Did you have any contact with] the Ocala Boosters?
B: No, just things that I read. I think I saw him a couple of times, but I was never
introduced to him, so I never really knew him.
N: As that whole Ocala is seriously pushing...
N: I'm sure they felt that they were stabbed in the back by Nixon and maybe even
by the Corps.
B: The Jacksonville group, too, was involved in it pretty heavy, keeping it going. In
fact, the Canal Authority was in Jacksonville at the time. [laughing]
N: Once the restudy is completed, is the Corps' role finished or are you still
employed by the Corps?
B: No, I'm still employed and actually I am the natural resource manger during that
time period, about 1978. Then, in 1981when we're still in limbo, the studies are
complete and they're still arguing about them, but [there's] not enough interest in
Congress to start any of the authorization procedure. The project engineer who
was stationed in Palatka, who I worked for, died, and they decided to take
advantage of the situation since it didn't look like any construction was going to
take place any time soon. [They] changed that whole office to a resource
management office, and I became the head of that whole office in Palatka, which
included several other things. [It included the] aquatic-plant control program for
the north half of the state, Palm Valley Bridge, Canaveral Walk at Cape
Canaveral, a permits program for protecting wetlands. So, I've got remnants of
the Barge Canal plus all that other stuff.
N: Can you talk about the relationship of ecology and the eastside of this project
versus the ecology and politics of the westside? The westside has a damn and
lock that are, at some point, very similar to what happens over at Robin, why all
the hue and cry about the Okalawaha and very little about the Withlacoochee
B: Well, the most important thing is Lake Russo or the back waters of the
Withlacooche was constructed and flooded. I think they settled in 1907. I mean,
it's so old that I've heard 1903, 1904, and 1907, and maybe in 1910. So, this is a
reservoir that's been there already for sixty-five years whereas on the eastside
you've still got the Okalawaha River and it's slowing drowning under a newly
constructed reservoir. Also, either the state or the federal government also have
an interest in some of the land around it, so you don't have a lot of residents
living right on lake shore. It would be quite a bit easier and you could save a lot
more of the natural environment if you drained Robin. So, I think that's mainly
the reason why they centered on the Okalawaha River. It could be saved, but
the Withlacoochee River has been drowned for sixty years.
N: When is the transition take place from the Corps to the state?
B: That's 1992 when Congress de-authorized it. There was a lot of work that went
into that agreement. The state agreed to take over all the facilities that were
included in the project, and all the lands, water, and stuctures, and to make it
available to the public by protecting it and make it available for recreation, wildlife
conservation, and other resource management benefits to the public.
N: So, the Corps is still in charge throughout the entire decade of the 1980s?
N: You're employed by the Corps during that entire decade?
N: The project is basically still on hold. Does anyone hold out a glimmer of hope
that it will be revitalized, or is everyone just assuming that the axe is going to fall
and it will be eventually de-authorized?
B: No, I think...If I told my people in the Corps of Engineers, I would say [that] with
each passing year after about 1980 when nothing came very fast to kind of turn it
around, the chief of engineers had taken a stance to, for the time being, the
project would not be recommended. I don't think anybody in the Corps of
Engineers saw anything like a windfall of funding or anything that would bring it
back up again as being beneficial. So, year by year they resigned themselves, at
least as an organization, that it was just going to sit on the books for a while and
probably not be built in the near future, if at all.
N: How is that for moral of the Corps, that you're involved in a project that's
basically dead but not dead?
B: I think for the older engineers who had spent a good part of their career working
on the Cross Florida Barge Canal, that was probably pretty serious to their moral.
Most intelligent people who work for the government, they see their job more as
public service and rather than getting the project completed, even though you
worked on it personally, maybe you were the project manager for the Cross
Florida Barge Canal...Sam Isenburg was the project manager for quite a while
and him and I became friends, and he had a very good attitude about it. You
know, the Corps of Engineers has plenty of work to do other than the Barge
Canal in his office. In general, he was pleased that the Corps had come such a
long way of the way they did business before 1969 and the way they were doing
it. So, I think that's a pretty good indication of the attitude with all those changes
going on. I think they realized business was being done in a better manner.
N: Does your position change, and your responsibilities, do they change during this
decade or are you still involved in resource management throughout this whole
B: Yeah, but I'm as the manager for thirty-five people instead of being a ranger with
a couple of assistants here and there. So, I'm [doing] more work in the office,
more reports and doing that, plus all the supervision duties for thirty people or so.
Well, I can't say I didn't enjoy it. There were aspects of it I enjoyed, but I
wouldn't look forward to doing it again.
N: Are you the Corps' primary person then, on this, or are there other people
involved? Can it be said that during the 1980s that you are the Corps during this
time, you and your office?
B: Yes [along with my] support staff up in Jacksonville who were still working and
keeping things updated. We still have structures: We've got three locks that
were built, each one cost 8 to 10 million dollars, and a number of damns, two
over and of course Robin Damn. [We had] an office and some other
facilities down in the center of the state that were built for the Barge Canal. So,
we've got all of that stuff to maintain, and since there's not much interest except,
you know, get that thing away from me, it's a political hot potato, I don't really
have anything to do about it but I've got to appropriate some money for it, so
here's this much. So, you're managing a project that you're not getting quite
enough money to maintain in a very good state. So, you're watching it slowly...
N: [You're watching it] deteriorate.
B: ...deteriorate for lack of interest. You know, that's something you don't like to
see, but like I said, most people that work with the government realize that those
things happen and they don't take it personally [laughing].
B: That's all I can say.
N: Are the locks serving a purpose? Are ships and boats being locked through, or
N: So basically, your function there is just maintaining of structures rather than use?
B: [We're there] maintaining of structures and trying to keep it open for recreation
traffic, which keeps it in shape. If we don't use it it's going to deteriorate further,
so it's not just that there's a lot of recreation traffic out there that wants to get
through, it's we've got to operate it anyway.
N: What is FDE's role throughout this decade of the 1980s? Are they pushing
constantly for de-authorization, and is their focus changing at all towards free-
flowing of the river as opposed to [that idea that] now the canal is completely
B: No, throughout the late 1970s and all through the 1980s and into the 1990s, they
were pushing just as strongly to drain the reservoir. I'd say they push a little
stronger when they see an opportunity that they might be successful, but they've
got a pretty strong push to get rid of the reservoir throughout.
N: Is there an assumption that de-authorization will mean the end of the reservoir, at
least on their part?
B: I think it means a big step toward getting rid of the reservoir. [It's the same] as
getting rid of the reservoir is seen by the other side as a big step for getting rid of
the Barge Canal. That's why, in part, they are fighting so hard to keep the
reservoir there. I don't think it's in the interest of the reservoir being better than
the river that they're doing it. The other side that wants to see a barge canal is
trying to keep the reservoir there because it represents a big stepping-stone in
getting the Barge Canal finished.
N: Is that still there by the late 1980s? [Are] people still pushing to have the canal
finished, or has the damn taken on a life of its own?
B: I think gradually the damn has taken on a life of its own, and the forces that are
pushing for [the] Barge Canal are slowly waning. The forces for getting rid of the
reservoir and de-authorizing the Barge Canal are gaining momentum.
N: When does de-authorization finally take place, and how does that affect the
ecosystem, generally, and your role in it, specifically?
B: [It is] de-authorized in 1992. [That] is when they officially handed it over and the
Corps of Engineers agreed to manage the structures for another year or
transition period, which we did. Then, for the Robin side, the St. Johns River
Water Management District agreed to manage them, I think, for another nine
months after the state took it over, because of course the Canal Authority of the
State of Florida, which is the organization that managed the Barge Canal Project
in the interim, between it becoming a Barge Canal and then over to a greenway,
didn't have anybody to manage it either. The natural choice is the water
management district since they managed a lot of water-control structures.
N: Who's managing it on the west side?
B: The Southwest Florida Water Management District managed the west side for
the same time period. Then, in a kind of surprising turn in politics for me, the
Canal Authority said that they can manage them cheaper than they were paying
the two water management districts to manage each end. So, that's when Fred
Air came to me and asked me if there was a possibility I could work with the
state. I told them that there was an inter-agency agreement. I'd already heard
about that and checked it out.
N: Who is Fred Air?
B: Fred Air is the director of the Canal Authority. I think he started in 1988 and he
managed the Canal Authority and then as it was transferred into the Office of
Greenways and Trails, right on up to about 1997 [or] 1998.
N: How does authorization have to take place? Is this by Congressional action?
B: [It happened through] de-authorization. Yeah, that's US Congress finally getting
their act together and actually de-authorizing the project.
N: With that then the dream of the canal as an entity is dead, and the debate then
shift to, instead of building the canal, the debate then shifts to complete removal
of Robin [Damn], at least through?
B: Yes, then the effort is stepped up considerably to get rid of Robin once the Barge
Canal Project is de-authorized. Also, [they tried] to get some kind of a
conceptual management plan in place that protects everything that is laid out in
the de-authorization. There's quite a bit of language in there about protecting the
Oklawaha River. I think Representative Charles Bennet worked long and hard to
come to a compromise to de-authorize it and turn over all the stuff to the state of
Florida, but only if the they took care of it.
N: But there's nothing in that de-authorization agreement that stipulates anything
B: I don't remember anything specifically other than it was up to the state as they
were to protect the remaining portion of the natural Oklawaha River as the
number one item. Then, the rest of as-built structures and everything, they were
to manage them.
N: [In] the same way they had been maintaining [them]?
B: No, they had flexibility to do what they wanted to, but they had to come up with
the management plan within a certain time period.
N: So, as the de-authorization takes place, you shift then over to the state. What
different responsibilities do you have with de-authorization?
B: Yes, I stay with the Corps through 1993 when the water management districts
were managing it, because we were also doing a lot of advisory stuff and
everything as the transition took place. Then, I started my transfer to the state of
Florida. I remained a Corps employee for retirement benefits and everything and
the state reimbursed my salary cost back. To the federal government, that
started in January of 1994 and went until January of 1999 when I retired from the
Corps. I was the Regional Manager for the Cross Florida Greenway.
N: The Canal Authority changes its name and its focus to the Cross Florida
Greenway during this decade of the 1990s?
B: Yes, there were a lot of changes going on including a lot of interest in greenways
in general across the state, with railroads going out of business and the rails to
trails organizations popping up to convert those to biking and alternate
transportation pathways and even DOT and the Federal Highway Administration,
whatever national organization runs the highway program. There was a lot of
interest and a lot of funding for changing things over to more passive type of
transportation and recreation, so there's a lot of greenways interest coming up
right at the same time. Actually, I think the first name that the Office of
Greenways and Trails had was just Office of Greenways Management. They
were in charge of managing all kinds of greenways all over the state of Florida,
the biggest project of which was the Cross Florida Greenway.
N: Was there ever any question that this land, when turned over to the state, would
be utilized by the state? Was there any push to turn this land back over to private
use or to commercialize it?
B: Yes, when it was first transferred of course there were a lot of questions about
where the money was coming to do all these management things that they
wanted to do, all the surveying and protection activities they wanted to do. The
counties had to be paid according to law, also. That was one of the main
agreements according to their contributions to the whole Barge Canal Project,
and that had to be done within a certain number of years. So, the Office of
Greenways Management started off with not too much money to do things with
and no allocations for paying the counties back. So, the counties were going to
get back chuncks of land in the beginning, in return for the monies they
contributed to the Barge Canal Project. The Florida State Legislators saw fit,
wisely so, to come up with some funds to reimburse the counties so that a lot of
the greenway property could stay in tack as a corridor. Luckily [they did this].
So, not many of these land for funds transactions were made.
N: So, what is the environmental legacy of the Cross Florida Barge Canal?
B: The legacy is kind of unbelievable because I don't think any other strategy or
whatever you want to call could have put together a one-mile wide corridor, on
the average, across the state of Florida, from the Gulf Coast to the St. John's
River. This is before a lot of people realized what the advantage of connecting a
lot of corridors would be for wildlife as well as for recreation. To have this linear
project turned into a greenway and have all these lands that are worth a lot of
money if they were used for development, especially connecting the water ways
like they do is just a great thing. It's probably one of the greatest things that's
happened to the central part of Florida. You sure couldn't, I don't think you could
get together the amount money it would take to put together a greenway like this.
Plus, [it would be hard to] displace the people that would be living on it.
N: So, what's unique about this swath of land?
B: First of all if goes up, like I said, almost a mile wide in most places and a major
river valley which protects it from development. It connects across the Florida
highlands in the middle of the peninsula, in an area where a lot of the forest is
still in tact. So, you don't have to spend a lot of money buying and restoring an
area that's been completely developed and changed [because] you've already
got it. It was bought back when land sold for less than a dollar an acre, some it.
It traverses most of Florida's major ecosystems, at least for the north part of the
state. You've got every type of plant community that exists in Florida in this
corridor. It connects the Ocala National Forest, two state forests, Silver River,
and Rainbow Springs State Park, and a number of other public lands that
actually make a very functional wildlife and recreational corridor across the state.
N: Talk about the continuing Rodman controversy and the pro-damn advocates like
Ed Taylor versus the FDE opponents like Richard Hammen. Where do you
stand on that issue? What about the continuing controversy between the state,
the federal government, the legislature, [and] the governor? Even in today's
paper Ed Taylor has got a letter to the editor, which tells you that thirty-five years
after the fact this is still a hot-button issue. Can you talk about those particulars?
B: Yes, and it's likely to stay hot off and on for a number of years because I don't
see the reservoir going away anytime soon. [This is] mainly because when it gets
serious one side or the other is going to take the other side to court and that
could drag out for a while. It's going to dredge up all the old studies that either
one side or the other is going to be dependent on to make their case. There are
a lot of politics that you're going to have to tease out of the facts, especially in the
1970s when things were hot and that big restudy was done. I was involved in a
lot of the field gathering activities of all kinds, and most of the field data are good.
I mean the people actually collected samples in the field, whether it be fisheries,
aquatic plants, mammals, reptiles, water quality, whatever. They collected good
information, but as soon as it got to the upper levels of management and got
politics involved with it...I was just amazed at the number of real facts that were
either ignored or completely changed to suit the political need of the time. I think
a lot of that stuff is going to come out and it's going to take a while to sort through
it and find out what the real facts are. I've written a number of papers back in the
1970s detailing a lot of those mistakes that were made, many of those volumes.
It wasn't the data, it was the ignoring of the data and the exaggerations as it went
up the upper levels of management. Things like executive summaries were put
in there, and that's what most people read. They don't want to read all through
the data and see if it correlates to what was actually collected in the field.
[Another problem is] maybe it was only collected one time during one season of
the year, and you know how Florida changes. Public use changes from season
to season [and] the animals you're going to find out there change from season to
season. I guess the best way to put it is the way Senator Patrick put it, which is a
lot of it has been cooked and cooked again and cooked again. There's going to
be a lot of time spent trying to get down to what the facts are before you can
come to any kind of conclusion or you're going to be accused of not doing it right
another time. So, it's going to take a while and the reservoir is going to be there
through that time, as far as I can see. One of the things that just came up here in
the last few years is the benefit that the reservoir performs in that whole river
system, which has a lot of problems upstream that may be corrected. That
reservoir acts a giant filter, a giant kidney, a giant diaper, whatever you want to
call it. Whenever that water is flushed from upstream there are a lot of nutrients
that are reused in the reservoir and the water coming out of Robin Damn is a lot
cleaner than the water coming into it. Even Silver River, the nutrient level in that
coming out of Silver Springs is really increasing. You can see the difference. I
was just up there a week ago. What used to be a white, silvery bottom is now
covered with algae because of the increase in the nitrates and probably
phosphorus too and a few other things coming in through the water out of Silver
Springs. So, Silver River is a big nutrient input into the whole Oklawaha system.
I don't even have to mention the Oklawaha River which has been changed and
has three little locks and damns, above Robin Damn, on it. The water
management district and other agencies are trying to reclaim a lot of those old
muck farms up there and they're running into some problems, and it's going to
take a while. So, that reservoir...
N: That's way up stream, that's even past where the Silver...
B: Yeah, locks and damns control the flow coming down the Oklawaha River. It's a
very complex issue about what function that reservoir is performing now. What I
like to tell people is to say that the reservoir needs to be gone because it's not
natural and it's part of the old Barge Canal Project. Well, the Cross Florida
Greenway was part of the Cross Florida Barge Canal Project and we're not going
to get rid of it. I mean you have to evaluate each part of that old Cross Florida
Barge Canal Project and either keep it, alter it or change it, or get rid of it
according to its own merits is the way I see it.
N: The Rodman Pool, Rodman Impoundment [has existed] for thirty-five years.
Has it developed its own unique ecosystem now?
B: Oh, yes. Like Jack Kaufman used to say in defense of getting rid of Rodman,
there's an ecosystem out there that you need to evaluate and come up with the
impacts that you're going to cause before you just drain it because it's part of the
old Cross Florida Barge Canal Project. He used to say well, there's a point on
your nose that could be an ecosystem. Anything could be an ecosystem, and
that's true. So yeah, Rodman is an ecosystem. It's a very rich one. You know,
the base-flow coming into that reservoir is just super rich. The nutrients are going
to express themselves because the water slows down, it heats up, sitting out in
the sunshine, so it's going to be a very rich ecosystem. It's going to be more like
Orange Lake than it is a fairly sterile Sandhill Lake. That's the way you should
expect it to behave and that's the way it does behave. That doesn't mean it's
bad, it just means it's more of an Orange Lake than it a Lake Kerr. In fact, that's
not a lake at all. There are stretches of the reservoir that flow like a river and has
kind of a river complex of animals of plants. As it slows down it becomes more
marsh-like or more everglades-like where you've got very slow sheet flow, and
then when you get into the main reservoir it is more like a lake, but then it's not
like a lake. How many lakes have 2,000 acres of drowned timber in the middle
for structure? It's just a completely different habitat. You know I've picked up a
lot of agricultural literature form UF and other places, University of Georgia. One
of the biggest recommendations that they give for farmers that have their little
ponds and everything is to put sticks and any kind of stumps and rocks in their
pond to increase fish habitat. That's what you have in Rodman. It's not bad. It
might not be aesthetically pleasing to a lot of people, but it's not necessarily bad.
That's the basis for a lot of food organisms, and a lot of ospreys and eagles out
there, [and] a lot of ducks. That's why there's more of those animals than there
are in a lot of lakes around there.
B: It's just looks...
N: We're sitting on a lake. Look out there, do you see flights of egrets and
everything flying over? No, because it's not a very rich lake.
[End side A2]
N: Dave, why don't you continue talking about the relationship of Rodman as an
ecosystem to the concerns about both FDE and Save Rodman.
B: Like I said, I could talk for five days straight probably, because Robin Reservoir
has been at the center of such a long controversy. It has peaked my interest for
thirty-five years. Of course my educational background and interest all of my life
has been in aquatic biology. Over the years I've really seen a lot of amazing
things go on about the controversy over Rodman. I've seen every argument
thrown forward as a reason for or against the reservoir. Some basic things are
really missing in a lot of the people's arguments. One of them is, just because an
area is man-made doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad or that it's not
productive or that it can't be managed. What it does mean is that it's not natural,
of course. With some people who want to drain the reservoir that's all that
matters. They'll put forth different arguments, but when those arguments either
don't agree with you or they find out that those arguments aren't getting them
anywhere, they back up to the fact that well, it's not natural therefore it's bad, and
we're losing too much natural environment in Florida and so we need to restore
the reservoir. I understand where they're coming from because we are losing a
lot of natural environment just to residential and business areas. They're no
longer functional for wildlife or plants, natural plant communities. So I
understand that argument, but when you get down to whether the reservoir does
this better or is better for the human experience or is better for fish habitat or
whatever, I don't think it should make any difference whether it's man-made or
not. It's whether it can be managed efficiently in order to gain enough benefits to
where it's better than what was there naturally or is better than what it's going to
cost to put it back naturally for the foreseeable future. So, we have to look at
what the facts are and what data has been collected. Then, I think it becomes a
very had decision to make as to which one to go with in your mind if you really
realize what a lot of the facts are out there. With that said, I think my position
since I've been working with the Corps and with the Greenway has been right
down the middle as far as the reservoir goes. There are good reasons for
keeping it and there are definitely good reasons for keeping it temporarily, for the
foreseeable future, until the upper end of the river is in better shape so you don't
need this big kidney toward the bottom.
N: Are they working on the upper end right now?
B: Yes, they're working. They're doing good things, but they're also...
N: Who's doing that, St. John's River Water Management District?
B: Mostly the St. John's River Water Management District, and they have some
partners. The Corps of Engineers is a partner and some other organizations
N: So that's tied in with the broader concerns about the Oklawaha as an entire
ecosystem as opposed to simply Rodman as a damn all the way down into
central Florida with Lake Apopka and all those other places that feed into [it]...
N: ...and feed the Oklawaha into maybe not quality water.
B: Right. In fact, I was just at a meeting last Thursday. There was a public meeting
on the procedure for working up total, minimum, daily-load factors that was
headed up by the water management district and [the] EPA for certain drainages
into the Okalawaha river, including the Upper-Oklawaha River, upstream, and
also the Lower-Oklawaha River which includes Robin Reservoir. So, they're
working on that and they've got some deadlines from the EPA. I don't know,
Robin is such a political issue that a lot of people just kind of walk around
discussing it even at meetings where Robin Reservoir is like right in the middle of
the watershed. They'll kind of dance around it and don't really want to get in to
deep into it, and I can understand why. They're going to have to spend a lot of
time talking to different people about it. I've always said there needs to be some
kind of, probably forced, procedure to where all the parties involved and that are
responsible for managing the Oklawaha River including Robin Reservoir have to
sit down and actually talk about it and say that word and not have to worry about
the political implications. Otherwise, we're not going to get anywhere.
N: But can you divorce that pure science from the politics? Politics seem to have
been so embedded in this whole controversy. Would it be possible to divorce the
politics from it?
B: I don't know. It would be hard because one side or the other, if they see that
they're being marginalized they always go to the top and have it worked down.
Of course that's politics. Either the governor steps in, or somebody else steps in
and says hey, before you do that, or don't do that...we're going to do this. It's
been a thirty-five year history with Robin Reservoir. That's just the way it is.
N: Well, certainly with the two major proponents on either side, now dead: Marjorie
Carr and with George Kirkpatrick who became the spokesperson, the point-man
for maintaining the reservoir. Is it possible do you think, with them gone, that
maybe there could be some kind of consensus or are their followers going to
maintain that it will be destruction of their legacy if the river is allowed to flow or if
the damn is allowed be destroyed?
B: Yeah, I would say there's going to be a continuation of the followers of each side
to be on guard and when they see an opportunity, to probe and provoke. I mean
you're always going to see...Not always, but for the foreseeable future you're
going to see bills introduced or pressure to introduce bills to go one way or the
other, to either protect Rodman more or to get something started on partial
restoration. I think when you see you can't just come out and do something, then
you try for one step at a time to just maybe compromise and reduce Rodman by
a third, that why we get a little more of the river back and this, that, and the other.
From the other side [we make have] a bill introduced to make it maybe a state
reserve or a state park. So your going to continually see maneuvers like that for
the foreseeable future, I think.
N: What's the role of the US Forest Service for this?
B: Well, in that case there shouldn't be any role, because they have about 600
acres underneath the reservoir and they have I don't know how many thousands
and thousands of acres all over the nation that are under reservoirs that they
don't seem to have a problem with, it's just this one. I think that's been pointed
out to them already. I think there's maybe a bill [that's] going to be introduced for
them to turn that land that's submerged under over to the state.
N: Is that in Federal Congress?
B: Yes, federal. At least I've read that. I don't know, you know how bills are.
They're put out there and then they're drawn back because of some other
considerations, some other politics. We've been trying to do that since 1994,
work with the forest service since they have...
N: "We" meaning the state?
B: The state of Florida has several times tried to work for the US Forest Service, to
trade lands that we have that are out in the forest that were originally procured of
the Barge Canal Project. [This would be] in return for lands that are right along
the river or are right along Robin Reservoir so that both agencies could be more
efficient in how they manage their land and make them more continuous. Those
usually go forward at the field level very favorably but then when they're elevated
to actually get something done somebody will add something else to it. I
remember one year, I think I 1996, we were going to trade all those lands back
and forth, and then they started throwing in national cemeteries somewhere
down state into it. [That introduced something that was] probably something
that's not very appetizing to the group and then finally the whole thing just fell
apart because they keep adding other things to it. [They add things] you know
like riders, things that people don't want throw it in. Hey, that's an opportunity,
let's throw that in there.
N: Which is where it stands now that there's no talking. Kind of in conclusion, how
do think Marjorie Carr would see her legacy in the Greenway? The Greenway is
named after her, would she see this as a successful legacy in her name?
B: Oh I think so, sure. I think she would be pleased that her efforts culminated in
this whole thing being turned into wildlife and recreation corridor for the people of
Florida and the country.
N: What then is the ultimate legacy of the Cross Florida Barge Canal? Is it
fortuitous, serendipitous land preservation?
B: Well, in the words of Eugene Ottam...When he visited in 1976 and spent a day
with me out there. You really should read a part of his letter in there. He was
saying that there needed to be a lot more information gathered on how the
reservoir functioned, but wouldn't it be great if the whole Barge Canal would just
fall through and the whole area could be converted into a green-belt that would
keep development from South Florida and North Florida from meeting in the
middle and conserve a good cross-section of Florida through the middle of the
state. I think that's exactly what happened. Most of the people I talk to when I
give presentations about the history of the Barge Canal and how it came to be a
greenway and what the greenway should hold for them in the future...I think
people are excited that this whole project became like a windfall for a huge
natural area across the middle of the state that is so popular that it's becoming a
residential area at best through the old path of the Barge Canal. I think most
people are excited and happy that it happened.
N: This is the end of this interview. I'd like to thank Dave Bowman for his time and I
appreciate him letting us come out here and interview him. Than you very much.
B: Thank you, I appreciate you taking the effort to interview people. I'm big on